Building a World Class Startup (The Nigerian story)

      Nigeria is a country of 140 million people, 60 million mobile subscribers (the fastest growing telecommunications market in the world), 10 million Internet users (debatable figure). As Justin Hartman noted in the recent BarCamp held in Lagos, its strange that a country with such huge potential doesn’t have a world class Internet Company. The reasonfor this I will try to expose in this post.

  1. Nigerian hackers have a “Me-Too” mentality: Most programmers/geeks in Nigeria always want to do what others are doing, which to me smacks of lack of innovation and creativity . They try to ride on a wave that has already passed them by, entering an oversaturated market that is already dominated by established leaders (e.g. “Naijapals” versus “Facebook”).  There is a quote I read somewhere “good hackers code, while great hackers copy”, I believe its not a sin to copy, but copying blindly isn’t going to stand you out and attract users to your web property, even if you want to copy an idea there should be a new twist in your own copy and not just a 100% copy. At least Facebook was not the first social networking site on the web and neither was Google the first search engine, the only thing was that they introduced a new angle into what they did which stood them out of the crowd.
  2. Means of accessing the Internet: In a recent survey, it was discovered that Nigeria has a population of about 10 million Internet users, a figure that I find highly debatable. The primary means by which Nigerians access the Internet is through cybercafés and Internet centers, home and personal access is very low at this point. Also, mobile phones are more ubiquitous than computers (60 million mobile users with an average of 2 mobile handsets per user), hence if any Nigerian hacker wants to develop a web property that would become world class, he has to take into cognizance the mobile phone and target his application to both the web and the mobile phone platforms.
  3. Essential Services: In Nigeria, about 70% of the population lives below the poverty line i.e. $1 per day, which means that money is scare and the people are very poor, hence any would be developer hoping to go world class should develop “essential” web properties i.e. web applications that add value to the lives of the average Nigerian. Probably along the line of the 3 basic needs of man i.e. food, clothing and shelter. Take for example, creating a local search engine that would give information about cheap and quality housing facilities or price information about food items to local farmers via sms messages, useful and ultra targeted news and information to people via sms messages. I believe such a web property would quickly reach critical mass because it adds immediate value to people’s lives.

Ehigie (Pystar) Aito


Why are Nigerian Hackers So Smart?

Foreword: This is not a post about fraud or 419, if you came here looking for information about that, you will be highly disappointed.

The $1 million question is why are Nigerian hackers so smart? The number of hackers/programmers/geeks in Nigeria is increasing by the day. And a vibrant but small community is being brought to life as was evidenced in the recent Barcamp Nigeria, held in Lagos, Nigeria.

But my main grouse with the hacking community in Nigeria is that it seems to lack any trace of innovation or creativity. Does Nigeria need another “Facebook” ala “Naijapals”, “legwork”, or “Craigslist” ala “Nairalist”, or “Social book marking site” ala “sturvs” ? One might argue that these are localized versions of these sites which strive to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the average Nigeria, but I disagree.

There are a lot of problems in Nigeria that can be solved with the use of technology, rather than wasting man hours and energy cloning popular sites and infringing on IP rights of the owners. Problems like:

  1. Monitoring of governments spending, and delivery of democratic dividends
  2. Unbiased and uncensored news reporting
  3. Educating rural/poor children
  4. Banking facilities for poor/illiterate people

I know that the average Nigerian hacker faces a myriad of challenges, like poor power supply, Internet access, security, VC capital and basic infrastructure like housing, good roads etc which are taken for granted in developed countries. But with these challenges would it not be worthwhile to create stuff that would benefit the hacker himself and the country at large Instead of cloning “Facebook” which adds little or no value to the average Nigerian?

This is a call to arms to the Nigerian hacker to use technology to change the dire situation of the country that he has found himself in.

Aito (Pystar) Ehigie

Information Overload

This days, the  amount of information that i get now is almost overwhelming, so i am really trying to prune  down and seperate signal from noise. 

Now, i try to restrict myself to gmail, hacker news, wordpress, twitter and occasionally facebook.

BarCamp Nigeria 2009

    The experience at Barcamp 2009 was an awesome one for me. It took place on the 25th of April 2009, The breakout sessions were really interactive, although i was shuffling between sessions trying to absorb as much as possible. It was also nice meeting alot of geeks and techies.

One thing i noticed was that there was nobody using any flavor of Linux on their laptops, the ratio was  like 98% windows and 2% Mac Os X. Also one downside was that the WiFi there as as slow as molasses, i had to whip out my Internet card before i was able to blog and twitter about the event. 

Over and above all, it was great to have been  there.